Where we are out of dialogue we want to find ways to be in dialogue
To get alongside ourselves we need to work side by side with others
We want a psychology that is neither individual nor social but connects the two.
Psychotherapy can help outside the therapy setting
We think social history, creative writing and psychotherapy can interact
What is between us is also within us
We will respect diversity and difference between each other and between groups if we can see it more within ourselves.
Our composition as individual human beings is more diverse and changeable than we habitually think in the rough and tumble of every day life.
Greater equality, fairness and compassion towards each other is good for our mental health and social well-being
In and out of dialogue
A letter to a homeland is a bridge between two places in time. It is as much about being in dialogue with the relationship between where we are now and where we were then.
For each of us the distance varies between our home culture and our present identity. Who we are now is influenced by the world around us in childhood and teenage years. It shaped We want to compare and map our different journeys and do this with curiosity and compassion.
Who we are can change with who is there, who we think is listening, who we are addressing and how we think they will receive us.
Some of our attachments to the world we have taken in as our own are fragmented or held on to too fiercely or easily dismissed. Were we are out of dialogue we want to find ways to get back into dialogue
Talking side by side
We think we can connect in richer and deeper ways with our identities and culture and the homelands from which we can and in many cases still owe allegiance if we talk about them side by side in collaboration with others from different backgrounds.
The activity of writing a letter and working side by side with another person is a way of approaching the past from the side rather than head on.
Our attachment to our homeland may well be coloured by our family relationship in childhood and the way our parents or carers were. Talking about or writing to, our childhood and parents directly may be too ‘head on’. Writing to a homeland may be a more roundabout way of connecting.
Writing and mapping and giving voice side by side avoids, or at least limits, our tendency to go head to head and set one story against another rather than looking for common elements.
Our past is woven into our memory and we cannot connect with it head on. It helps to go towards our memories at an angle or indirectly which is our intention in inviting people to write to their homeland. It is an imprecise place and may exist only as an idea or as part of our imagination.
A psychology that is both social and individual
The contribution of Psychotherapy
The tools and values for this personal and social history project have come from psychotherapy. The field of psychotherapy is very rich with ideas at present with influences from cognitive, psychoanalytic, social justice and humanistic traditions. All of these are being influenced by scrutiny on the one hand of how the helping relationship works in therapy and on the other hand by developments in our understanding of affective neuroscience (Pankseep Knox ), infant development (Trevarthen, Reddy ) and the evolution of the modern mind (Donald).
Therapy can help outside the therapy room with us playing psychological catch up in an increasingly complex and changing world. they may stop therapy being too individual and isolated from the world.
The recent third generation of therapies, in particular, have tools and skills that are useful for education and creativity. We know that therapy offers moments of attuning and connecting that help us self-consciously repair our capacity to share experience and reflect.
Identities which are ‘tight fit’ or ‘loosely knit’
When we write to our homeland we are opening a conversation with a social identity which we took from it into the present.
There may be one or more.
If there are several they may hang together well or badly and you may have had to partition them or segregate them.
Are they ‘loosely knit’ identities in your homeland where it is easy to be yourself or ‘tight fit’ where you have to stay conscious of the rules and fit in?
Some homeland identities are tight fitting and leave no room for individual personality and dialogue. These are fundamentalist identities that seem to offer such clear answers and rules of belonging. Other identities are more loosely knit and allow individual expression and interpretation. We can still feel allegiance and belonging but not to the exclusion of other identities and places we can call home.
If we know more about the national and cultural identities with which we connect, according gender, ethnicity and across the generations, and around the world it can help us be more open to the orchestration of all our differences and similarities.
Going back or getting away
Other homeland identities are ones we are drawn back to and offer a timeless welcome such as the hills of home. Whilst some are ones defined by our escape from them and by our assertion that we are no longer there.
In this context our relationship with our homeland may be disorganised or blurred. It may be hard to find a name for it. It may no longer exist in the same way it did.
You may have been taken from it or it may have been taken from you.
We are one and we are many
Our lives are made up of many stories and each time we talk of our life we tell and mix these stories in a unique way when we are in an open dialogue with them. Our stories are shaped by our home culture but they shape us differently as men or women, one generation or another, physically and mentally enabled this way or that and tied by one or another faith or set of values.
At heart we are both nomads and settlers, cosmopolitan and local.
At our best and most human we don’t just belong to one place but have several identities. We orchestrate them in relation to each other and move in and out of them according to need and context
At our worst we are hi-jacked and made prisoner of our homelands and identities. We create the world around us with prejudice in order to protect ourselves from real or imagined threats to our homeland.
At the beginning of the global era we might need to learn a lot more about our nomadic psychology. For example most of us are quick to attach to a new location, get to know its geography, adapt to its climate and ways of living.